"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thomas Asbridge on the Crusades

Apart, perhaps, from the Catholic Church and Galileo, or Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust, there are, as I have noted before, few topics in religious history more susceptible to gross, often tendentious, misrepresentation and misunderstanding than the Crusades. Along comes a new book attempting to tell this story in a way that is at once scholarly and accurate but also popularly accessible: Thomas Asbridge, The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land (Ecco, 2010).

About this book, the publisher tells us:
Nine hundred years ago, a vast Christian army, summoned to holy war by the Pope, rampaged through the Muslim world of the eastern Mediterranean, seizing possession of Jerusalem, a city revered by both faiths. Over the two hundred years that followed, Islam and Christianity fought for dominion of the Holy Land, clashing in a succession of chillingly brutal wars: the Crusades. Here for the first time is the story of that epic struggle told from the perspective of both Christians and Muslims. A vivid and fast-paced narrative history, it exposes the full horror, passion, and barbaric grandeur of the Crusading era, revealing how these holy wars reshaped the medieval world and why they continue to influence events today. 
I asked the historian and specialist on the crusades, Michael Lawler of the University of Minnesota, to review this book for Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. We will publish his review in our upcoming spring 2012 issue. About this book he says in part:
Anyone who is interested in the crusades, whether new to the subject or not, can learn a great deal from this book. By bringing together Muslim and Christian perspectives, Asbridge points the way forward to a new approach toward this most contentious of religious conflicts, one that is grounded in minute analysis of the sources produced by both religious traditions. All in all, The Crusades is a wonderful achievement.

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